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tv   Charlie Rose  WHUT  February 1, 2011 3:00am-4:00am EST

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>> rose: welcome to our program. tonight we look at the momentous changes in egypt with tarek masoud of harvard, fouad ajami of johns hopkins, neil macfarquhar of the "new york times" and emad shahin of the university of notre dame. from cairo via telephone, anthony shadid of the "new york times." and we continue with stephen cohen of the institute for middle east peace and development and bruce riedel of the brookings institution. a program note, we have a fascinating conversation with bill gates about his foundation and how he sees the eradication of polio. that conversation was taped today and we will show it to you at a later date because tonight we wanted to focus on the events in egypt. that's coming up next.
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rose communications from our studios in new york city, this is charlie rose. >> rose: you can see history in the middle east changing in front of your eyes, first in tunisia and now in egypt. thousands remain camped in central cairo's liberation square in defiance of a curfew. speaking on state television late tonight, the recently appointed vice president, omar suleiman, said that the government is ready to start a dialogue with the opposition. earlier in the day, the army announced that it would not use force against protestors. the announcement came after president mubarak-- who has not spoken publicly since friday night-- swore in a new cabinet. some members remain in place, including the foreign minister and the defense minister. protestors and opposition leaders dismissed the changes. they have called for a general strike and a march of one million on tuesday. joining me now are tarek masoud
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of harvard university's kennedy school of government, fouad ajami of johns hopkins university, neil macfarquhar of the "new york times" and the paper's former cairo bureau chief. from washington, emad shaheen of the university of notre dame. joining me via telephone from cairo will be anthony shadid of the "new york times." i am pleased to have all of them on this program. i want to go first to fouad ajami. tell me what this means. >> well, i think, charlie, what this means is that the egyptian people and the arab people by and large beyond egypt have reentered history. people have been taking out the... the despots in the region have taken out people and in many ways you can look at the arab world over the last few decades and really if you want a turning point, i think, the turning point was the terror unleashed on the syrian people in the city of hamas in 1982. for about 25 years the arab people have been terrified of their rulers and the security states have really marginalized
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them and demolished their sense of dignity. in tunisia first and then it spread to the critical state of egypt. the people, the arab people, have now wanted to say something about their conditions and the egyptians in particular have a proud national tradition of parliamentary life and vibrant history. they wish to say to pharaoh "enough." they said the same thing to him a few years ago, several years ago. they had a movement which means "enough." and he never listened. this one is a very different moment. >> i speak to my family members over there, and this is really a... >> rose: they're in cairo? >> in cairo. my mother lives in cairo as does my younger brother. this is a transformative moment. it's not so much the egyptian people were cowed beforehand and fearful beforehand, it was simply they didn't have a sense of their collective efficacy. that they could actually band together and do something of this magnitude. and i think what happened in tunisia changed that perception. before tunisia you'd walk by a protest in front of the lawyer
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syndicate and you'd say "well, god bless those guys but can we really change the system?" after tunisia you'd say "well, they did in the tunisia, we can do it here as well." so the protests got bigger and you see it now i think culminating in the end of this regime. >> rose: which leads to the question. can they do it in jordan? can they do it in saudi arabia? can they do in the yemen? >> the circumstances of each of these countries is, of course, very different. in yemen it's possible. part of this also depends on how the regime responds. in yemen they seem to have been a little bit smarter. in saudi arabia, of course, there's just fundamentally a lesser degree of pluralism in that society to begin with. or political activity in that society. but i do think that if egypt goes, if egypt ends up the right way, then we very well could be looking at kind of flowering throughout the arab world. >> rose: let me go to washington emad shaheen. tell me how you see this moment in history and what you think is at the core of it. >> well, i think we're seeing
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before our eyes history in the making. this is the arab tsunami of democracy. or you can say that this is the arabs' attempt to ride the wave of democracy. the third wave has missed the arabs by a few chapters. now the arabs are catching up. the interesting thing in this new wave is that it's being charted by the youth, the arab youth that have been born and raised under dictatorship, under hypocrisy. and also fed up with the existing former political structures, manipulated by highly and easily co-opted political parties and members of the organization of the civil society. so they rose up to say their words, using highly efficient techniques of internet, facebook innovative and resourceful means of organization. it's now the day of the arab youth and, of course, they managed to incorporate into
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their movement people from diverse socioeconomic aspects of society: rich, poor, beyond. the whole movement is going beyond ideological orientation. it's even beyond a specific movement, be it the muslim brotherhood or the cops or anyone. this is a comprehensive call for a new day. and it's a difficult moment and we have also to appreciate this. this is a burst of if we are hopeful, of course, and being on the hopeful side this is the burst of arab democracy. we might not get there, just to be realistic, we might not get there. it might be bloody, it might be messy but for one sure... one thing i'm very certain of, things will never be the same in the arab world. >> rose: you have written about the possibility of reform elements in egypt. did you ever imagine this would be the way it could come together? >> not a massive street protest
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like that. it's hard to imagine but not impossible because there was always an undercurrent of anger among egyptians and you always felt it was a matter of not if but when because they are a slow people to anger but once they do anger it's very hard to put that fuse out. and i think that's what we're seeing. but, again, we have to be a little bit realistic because cairo's a city of 15 million people and we've seen high estimates today were 250,000 demonstrators. i'm not sure it's really a mass movement. it's more than they've ever faced before and it's certainly shaken the government and mubarak's days may be numbered if they continue to grow like that. but it's just... there was always that sort of fear there of confronting them because it was really a matter of life and death. and egyptians have a wonderful sense of humor, they're calling it a tunisami instead of a
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tsunami. it's helping people over come that fear. and, you know, the government has just been arrogant and unresponsive and untransparent and, you know, incidents all the time that i was there there was a train that caught on fire and 300 people died because the conductor wasn't looking. and the carriages burned and ferries sank and hundreds of people died and there were building collapses and the government just never did anything. but you never know exactly where it was going to come from because the political opposition is as hopeless as the government. >> rose: so this is at heart a grass-roots... >> well, look i think what we have to appreciate... >> rose:... grasp of change. >> what we have to appreciate is hosni mubarak has fallen. the house of mubarak. his wife, his son, his other son who razed the economy and unto
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them has converged all the resentment of the realm. it's really about the dignity of the egyptian people and in many ways take a look at mubarak. he was the accidental successor of anwar sadat and his two great predecessors never entertained a dynastic bid for succession. they feared their country. they respected their country. they knew its history, its tumultuous history. in particular sadat has been in the underground in the '30s and the '40s. there comes hosni mubarak, ten years younger, a man of the military, a secretive man, a cautious man and he takes the society apart. we have to give him credit. and for 30 years there he is and then he offers them a nightmare. the nightmare is his son and they were shamed by tunisia because the egyptians have v the sense of their own primacy in arab life.
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they never think of the tunisians as big players. they think tunisia is on the outer margins. >> rose: they think egypt is the center of arab life. >> of course. 80 million egyptians to 10 million tunisians and the primacy of egypt... this is what arab modernity came to be, this is where politics in the arab world came. so they pondered their own situation and felt a terrible humiliation and i think they wanted to send a message to mubarak and the regime around him. it's an attempt on the part of the egyptians to reclaim their history in this unique arab moment. i have a quotation that i think will tell you... >> rose: i'd be disappointed if you didn't. >> i was looking at the revolution of 1848 in europe and it began in paris, it spread everywhere and a man wrote a very interesting quotation. he said "the gift of liberty is like that of a horse: handsome, strong, and high spirited. in some it arouses a wish to ride. in many others around the
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country it increases the desire to walk." so do you ride or do you walk? and for many years now the arabs have walked. they were afraid of the tyrants, they were afraid of the state and finally they decided they would have a ride and this is what this moment is about, the willingness to risk freedom, even as people tell them islamic fundamentalism will come, you will lose your liberty, you will break these chains and forge new ones. they're not listening. they want to take a chance. and that's what this moment is. >> rose: well said. anthony shadid, "new york times", in cairo. thank you for staying up late, first of all. >> sure, my pleasure. >> rose: tell me what's happening today and what's going to happen tomorrow, more importantly. >> well, it's a quick succession of events tonight here in cairo. the military made a striking statement this evening that it would not fire on protestors.
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it also said that it considered the demands of these demonstrations to be legitimate. soon after that, the newly appointed vice president went on state television saying that he was going to open dialogue with opposition. there seems to be a dramatic weakening of president mubarak's home on power and though maybe it's too early to say, it does seem like the coming days may be decisive in determining what has been the ultimate demands with the fall of president hosni mubarak's government. >> rose: but tomorrow, a million people? >> you know, that's their call. there's an imperative i think on the protestors' part to keep the pressure up in the street. their card right now is the street and as long as they can keep thousands and tens of thousands of people in liberation square and elsewhere in the city it's a very visible sign that they're discontent with the government. their ideas that if they can keep the numbers out there, president mubarak will have to step down. they may be correct. what we saw tonight is a partial
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recognition on the part of the military and its allies within the government that the situation as it is is not tenable. >> rose: tell me about the leadership of the people in the streets. >> i think that's a great question, charlie. and when you talk to activists a lot of them will admit that the very pace of events caught them by surprise. no one expected the uprising to progress as it did. in other words, no one expected the numbers we've seen over the past week to be as large as they've been. so i think not only the brotherhood of the formal opposition-- which is pretty weak to be honest-- and activists who tried to mobilize these crowds before were utterly taken back by the pace of events and they're trying to catch up right now. we've seen a more forceful presence of the muslim brotherhood in liberation square over the past two days but in a pretty coordinated message the brotherhood seems to want to take a backseat. they don't want to seem to take a leadership role in this protest and part of that is
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sensitivitys to the image abroad and part is the sensitivitys to the divisions they represent within egyptian society as well. >> rose: where would you say mubarak is? does anybody have any sense of where he is in his head as these forces sweep over him? >> you know, it's an interesting question. i think a lot of people will look back on these past few days trying to understand what mubarak's strategy was, if he has any strategy at this point. it does seem like the military has made a concerted effort to take full control of the government. the prime minister is a former general, the newly appointed vice president is the former head of intelligence. the defense minister has become the deputy prime minister. so i think what we're seeing in some ways is the creation of a military government. mubarak himself, he may be trying to set up some kind of transition, some kind of exit from power. i think it reflects his past. mubarak was an esteemed air force officer, a war hero from
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1973, the war with israel. and in some ways he's this... this is his last duty. he's always been a leader that's eschewed the dramatics and i think what we're seeing right now is a reflection of that past. there's no dramatic gesture right now. there's been no decisive move to heed the protestors' demands. rather, there's been kind of a methodical almost plodding approach to what basically is the most serious challenge to his rule in three decades. >> rose: tarek masoud? >> this is absolutely right and it's absolutely the critical stage right now. professor shadid mentioned that they were fed up with the mubarak dynasty but they were slightly incorrect in attributing all of their fortunes to that family and dynasty. what we're seeing is a return of the regime to its roots, which are military routess. this was a military regime. mubarak may have been trying or
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those in his family may have been trying to affect a transformation into a kind of thugocracy, but the military was not happy with that either. so, in fact, the military was one of the aggrieved parties and now what we're seeing is the military is the only party that can rescue must be a rack from this horrible alternative of chaos, of egypt, the great center of the arab world with its extreme challenges that it faces geopolitically falling into the hands of the irresponsibles, as mubarak might view the muslim brothers or the egyptian people. so this is the kind of critical thing that's happening right now is that the military is consolidating its hold. its decision not to fire on the protestors clearly indicates they've designed eight now no tiananmen option. but it also means they're lowering the temperature. they're occupying the key positions of power. the prime minister is mubarak's bosom friend. we know omar suleiman, the vice
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president, the military is consolidating its old, it's lowering the temperature and this is the risk because the military still has some legitimacy among the egyptians because they confused the source of their misery. they thought it was mubarak but it's also this military. and we need to affect this transition. >> we also don't know that mubarak is necessarily calling the shots directly because the military does consider itself the keeper of the revolutionary flame. they overthrew the government in 1952 and they may have decided that it's time for him to go. he's been there 30 years and it's not worth wrecking the institution of the army by firing on the public in order to save mubarak because he may... natural causes might have removed him any day any way. and i think just to make one other point is that it's almost a game of chicken. it's like they seem to be stalling for time. that statement from the army was extraordinary because they said we're aware of the legitimacy of your demands. which means we accept that there's a problem here. and then they're stalling for time about talking for
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opposition. if there is any opposition. so i think the military is waiting to see how big those crowds are today and at friday prayers and if economic activity and everything stalls then they may just tell mr. mubarak it's time to go. >> rose: so emad, tell me what the options are, then. i mean, what can the people... the dialogue that omar suleiman said that he wants to have... he said he wants to start a dialogue with professors as calls for regime change appear to reach a new level of intensity. what's the dialogue and can he represent the military in some kind of dialogue with whoever? >> look, charlie, there is no quick fix for this crisis. and if f it seems that the message that mubarak and maybe this military-led government is missing, the demonstrations, the pro-demonstration demonstrations in tunisia and egypt have narrowed the options before
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these arab autocrats. now they are faced with two pockets: meaningful change or leave. there is no other option. and if you allow me just to very briefly explain even the difficulty with the meaningful change option, it's very difficult to attain. why? because the ceiling of demands has risen immensely, very high. these people are not demonstrating to reduce the prices of fuel or to reduce the prices of potatoes. they are demonstrating and risking their life for their full emancipation, political emancipation for their self-determination, for attaining the democracy and freedom. that's what they are for. they are for a regime change. now, if the re"g.q.," mubarak's regime, tries to buy time by proposing or suggesting partial changes and reforms, this is what he's going to face. one, the ceiling of demands have risen, as i said, tremendously.
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second these are poor countries and they need lots... massive amounts of money in order to inject into the economy to achieve... to address some of the socioeconomic matters. secondly, some of the problems that there have been... they have created, like unemployment, like poverty, these are long-term problems. even the united states, like the creation of jobs, they cannot be resolved over time. so they will ask people for time. people are fed up. people cannot trust them anymore. why? because they lost their credibility. so even the first option of reforming from within the regime reforming from within the system is no longer attainable. so i think we are now or we should be looking into the option of leaving which, of course, might sound very idealistic that this will happen. i have my own doubts about the transition, whether it will be effective or not, whether it will even fall through or not.
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i have tremendous doubts and questions about this. why? because the u.s. position despite the fact that it has moved and improved from a position of describing mubarak's regime as a stable regime and this jeffersonian rhetoric about you know, we support the universal rights of egyptians into opposition of willingness to see a smooth transition of government, the main question is there is an ambiguity. we don't know whether the white house and the state department would like to see this transition within this regime or to a totally new regime. the words "regime change" have not been uttered yet. >> rose: so what are the options here? >> well, i don't think we really know. i mean, let's face it, the regime has no script, the opponents in the street have no script. we're playing it by ear. and when you study all revolutions, the element of contingency, of accident, a
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young man in a forlorn town in tunisia sets himself on fire and the regional order, the autocrat himself is in danger. >> rose: and history changes. a man sets himself on fire and history changes. >> exactly. when you said something about mubarak's strategy i smiled. i'm reminded of an egyptian joke and egyptians were funny before mubarak. after mubarak the humor left the land. it's that when mubarak became president he took a ride with his driver and he asked the driver, he said... he came to a cross roads and the driver said "mr. president, what do i do?" tell me which way to turn? and he said to the left. and after that he said always to the right. after that he said okay, don't move. don't move. this is the mubarak strategy, don't move. stiff anyone who comes to you with demands. and look at mubarak. he's been there through five american presidents, right? from the days of ronald reagan. and we've always talked about pushing him to reform.
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mubarak is a survivor and a wily man and he would hope that he could somehow ride out the storm. my guess is a variation on what neil said. the army now calls the shots. the system of hosni mubarak has fallen and if he stays, he stays at the good grace of the army. >> the idea that they say we're calling far dialogue on the opposition is almost a joke because they spent their entire tenure destroying the opposition so there would be no opposition to challenge them. and the opposition, those parties that exist and they're as moribund and tired as the government, do not represent the young demonstrators in the streets. >> rose: let me go back to anthony shadid. anthony, what about elbaradei? what role does he play in all this? >> well, i they neil just said is the key point here. when you see tens of thousands of people in liberation square right now who are basically looking for a voice and having no one to articulate that voice, i think neil said it exactly
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right. it's an issue not only with egyptian jipgs but american back governmented in the arab world. so now we're dealing with a situation where you have tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of people in the streets and no one speaks for them. elbaradei has tried to emerge as a consensus figure, someone who might be acceptable to the west but it's remarkable how shallow his support runs in the streets. even liberation square where he visited last night and you talk to people today, he's lived abroad, they say he doesn't understand their concerns or sufferings, which is really what's driving these protests. the question of jobs, having enough money to get married, housing. i think what opposition emerges to negotiate with with the government over the transitional period is going to be the real question. i think it's going to be one of the real dangerous elements as we go forward, that there really is not an opposition. except muslim brotherhood but the muslim brotherhood itself becomes contentious when you talk about some kind of power-sharing idea. >> it's clear that there is no
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single charismatic figure like homeini in iran who commands the loyalties and allegiance of the masses. but i'm not quite sure... and, yes, it is a kind of leaderless revolt but i'm not sure somebody like monl med elbaradei or this new committee of opposition figures that includes people from in and outside of the political party, the cafe ya movement is part of this committee and you could imagine this would have the sufficient legitimacy to begin the dialogue with the government that the government is calling for. so, you know, i think this is actually a good thing about this particular revolution is that there is no homeini. there is no grand charismatic figure who could steal it. and so we have an opportunity if the united states kind of develops some backbone and pushes the egyptian military to kind of midwife the democratic process, we have an opportunity using the existing egyptian constitution even to get a democratic process out of this.
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>> i think our there are two developments that you have to pay attention to here, if you allow know jump in very quickly. someone that what happened over the past few years. i think the egyptian political civil society has managed to achieve two things, one, some kind of consensus over a very clear agenda of reform. it's like a wish list. it's like a laundry list if even in the street can recite for you separation of power, freedom of assembly, party formation, independent judiciary and so on. it's a long list that can constitute a successful way toward building a democratic life. there is a clear vision about what egyptians want. the importance of elbaradei is there are two things. one is what this agenda needed was the trigger to effect it. that came from the tunisia. the it inspired and inflamed the opportunity for change.
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and the second is the voice, the vehicle. and this is where elbaradei stands. it could be elbaradei, it could be noor that will carry this... or drive this vehicle to achieve at agenda that had gathered consensus. >> i just wanted to introduce one idea into this. this is what really struck me reporting over the past week here is that, you know, not only are we facing an historic moment in egypt, there's also a sense of a revolutionary moment. i think we've seen a degree of mobilization going on in just a minute that in some ways i think is unprecedented. the self-defense committees set up in neighborhoods, and mobilizations in people on the streets. it's spontaneous, unexpected and remarkable when you talk to activists how much they feel that event have outpaced them. and i think it's going to be a question moving forward. there are these figures out there, there are some movements that have tried to tap into this popular discontent. but basically this uprising has so far outpaced any notion of
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opposition that it's going to be a question whether they can articulate the voices of the dispossessed as we go forsboord a transition period. >> the point i was going to make i talked to an egyptian analyst today and he said el bare die is everybody's plan "b" but nobody know what plan a is. >> rose: i love that. >> the models in the region are turkey, which the military stepped in when the religious powers got too strong and they said okay, we're going to have a new constitution and the first sarl that we're going to be a secular regime and whatever they started driftding too far towards sharia the military would start making noise and they would drift back. or iran and you have a revolution where they instituted religious authoritarianism. in egypt neither model quite works. it's too religious to call it a secular place and as tarek pointed out, there isn't a charismatic figure. now the military says it's going
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to be a democracy, do they put one of their own forward with the candidate and make an arrangement with the muslim brotherhood saying we can give you 100 seats in the new parliament. >> but it doesn't have to work that way. you've got an egyptian constitution already there which has beautiful democratic language in it. it has terrifying things as well. but there are steps you could take to affect a... to make constitutionalism a more entrenched feature of egyptian political life and to get a democracy. so you dissolve the parliament, you have no parliamentary elections, somebody like elbaradei leads a national list that has all kinds of different people in it. then they sit down and defame the office of the presidency, they amend the constitution, or get rid of it and that way you would never have to worry about the islamists winning the presidency and using the dictatorial powers of it to ensure one man; one vote; one time. there are things we can do. we should not be relying on the army to make the decisions here. in fact, we should be pushing the army to restore order and to get out of the way.
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>> rose: time is on the side of who? >> that's a wonderful question. i think mubarak thinks that time is on his side. that the fury of the crowd will subside. this is false logic. it's a false lodge nick egypt and the surrounding state. the eric world has no thunder and in fact we should remember the enthusiasm for the crowds in the street and the challenge and the flight of ben ali. we have not yet seen the counterrevolution. we have not yet seen these autocrats dig in and fight back, if you will. and i think to be honest, without dodging your question, i think nobody really... it's all uncharted territory. the crowd is discovering its power and mubarak is discovering and seeing his weakness. when he gave a speech on friday you watch a shell-shocked man. he was like the husband betrayed. he was the last to know "they don't love me in egypt? i can't believe this. i've been here for 30 years, i was the hero of the war of '73"
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and so on. all is bunk and all is gone. so both he and the protestors are in uncharted waters testing each other and testing what egypt is made of. does it have a democratic to ten snshl can it rescue itself economically? all these questions are there for both the regime and the opponents in the regime. >> rose: joining me now are two people who know the region and the principals better than most. stephen p. cohen of the institute for middle east peace and development. he's been advising on the middle east for over 40 years and knows egypt's top leadership. from washington, bruce riedel of the brookings institution. he was with the c.i.a. for 29 years and was an egypt analyst when president anwar sadat was assassinated in 1981. i am pleased to have both of them on this program at this time. i begin in washington with bruce ridel. before we talk about the options for the united states and what it should say and should not say
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how do you see this circumstance today and where it might be going. if >> we're in uncharted waters. what happened in tunisia at the beginning of this month was an earthquake. you had an arab street overthrow a dictator. that's happened in muslim countries like iran and pakistan before. it never happened in the arab world before. it's been contagious. it's now gone to cairo, to egypt, to the center of the arab world and if it succeeds in egypt it could be contagious beyond egypt as well. the hopeful outcome is that cooler heads will prevail and with american help and cajoling we can get to a transition, get the crowds off the street, get the army off the street, get some kind of national unity government and move towards elections. that's the optimal outcome. there are a lot of things that could go wrong along that path. >> rose: well, i want to talk about what could go wrong. but what's the worst outcome?
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>> i think the worst outcome is if the mubarak regime tries to hold on too long. tries to hold back history here and tries to stay in power when it's very clear that mr. mubarak's 30 years are up and that it's time to listen to the egyptian people and for him to move along. mr. mubarak has been a friend of the united states for 30 years. we don't want to throw him under the bus. we need a graceful way for him to come out and he needs to recognize that the egyptian people have lost their faith in him and that he needs to move on. rose: and the steps in between might be what? >> well, he's appointed the new vice president, omar suleiman, a man i've known for 20 years. omar suleiman is a very smart guy, a very tough operator, a committed counterterrorist, no friend of reform and democracy but perhaps he will recognize in this moment the opportunity to help ease that transition and to
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take on the burden now of saying to mubarak it's time to go and it's time to broaden the political process. we don't know how people will react in moments of crisis like this. this is going to be a real test of whether omar suleiman can find a way to move egypt out of the very dangerous place it is right now and on to surer footing. it really is uncharted waters for everybody. >> rose: omar suleiman you know well. tell me... i assume you've talked to him recently even. how does he see this? what is his sense of his own mission today? >> i think that the primary mission that he has and his partner n this who used to be the defense minister of egypt, i think that they have one primary things which they do not want to see a division between the army and the public because they know
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if that division happens then the whole of the legitimacy of the egyptian state will be called into question. their first responsibility, i believe, is to make sure that the egyptian state survives on the basis of good cooperation between the military and the public that has emerged in these demonstrations. >> rose: and how does he do that? >> well, i think that the first thing they're trying to do-- which i don't know that it will work-- but they have this idea that they will get 100 of the members of parliament who came into election on the illegitimate election of two years ago and have them leave the parliament and be replaced by 100 people that will be agreed upon with these people who led the demonstrations and
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that that would be the beginning of a change, not the end, the beginning of a change. and if they succeed in that, therefore the parliament would be able to be one of the institutions which plans a real election for president and for the parliament in... >> rose: in six months or...? >> in two years. when there is a chance to have political party because egypt does not have a history of effective political parties and that's going to take time and it's going to require the emergence of personalitys who go beyond the few that they talk about today because there has to be a cadre of high-quality political personalities who emerge. and... >> rose: do go ahead. >> that is going to have to be a group of people who have acceptance by the military and
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acceptance by these opposition forces that that are emerging and are not fully defined yet. >> rose: bruce, who will go tell mubarak it's over? >> the person who can do that better than anyone else is omar suleiman. mubarak owes his life to omar suleiman. in the mid-1990s, mubarak traveled to addis ababa for an o.a.u. conference summit. the egyptian intelligence picked up that there could be a plot on him and omar suleiman insisted he go in an armored car and that armored car saved his life and mubarak on many occasions has credited suleiman with doing it. so if anybody can tell him it's time to go it's probably omar suleiman. >> rose: so therefore each of his... he's fortunate to have omar suleiman there because he can speak to both mubarak and the army, maybe not have the same kind of credibility with the people in the street but because he can speak with and for the army may very well have
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the ability to reach them. >> i think that he's already... >> definitely an authoritative voice in all of this. he's somebody the army knows, he's somebody the intelligence services know. but the people on the street see omar suleiman as just twisting mubarak redux. >> rose: and can he... but can he convince them i'm the one person who can ease mubarak out so therefore you need to give some ability and running room for me to make these things happen? >> it's a very dicey situation. i think suleiman does have the credibility that that if he can say mubarak is going and i'm not intending to be a permanent replacement but a transitional figure he could be very important in n allowing this to be a peaceful revolution. i think the scenario that steve laid out is a very plausible one for how we get to a better outcome without significant violence on the streets but it
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requires all the players to be willing to compromise now and it requires mubarak to leave. >> i think that the first important moment of decision making already has happened in that mubarak by appointing suleiman as vice president has removed the possibility of proposing his son as a successor. and that, i think, is a very important step. it's an important step for the country which did not want him to be a successor, did not want to create a dynasty and it's important also for mubarak himself because he was always concerned that gamal's attempt to be a successor would raise the possibility of his assassination. and i think that now that mubarak has his family safer i
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think it's more possible to imagine him agreeing to a scenario that includes his leaving power and probably his leaving egypt. >> rose: it is said that his wife susan was almost more insistent that the son be elected president than the president. >> i don't think that the president was ever quite comfortable with the idea of his son becoming his successor. he wanted it and he didn't want it. and he never took the steps necessary in order to make it stake. when he let his son become the leader of for national democratic party you could see what happened that he had a chance to gain credibility with a wide part of the egyptian political society.
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but what he did is to propose changes in the political party system and the election system which fell so far short of people's desire for some kind of move towards democracy that he lost any chance of showing himself as a change from his father in the direction of opening the society. and i think that that was a very important mistake by gamal about his strategy and, as i say, i think that the fact that gamal is now not on the list and not even on mubarak's list i think has shown an ability to step back from the ultimate confrontation. >>. >> rose: what are the options for the united states? >> the united states is in a very, very difficult place. we have a huge stake in what happens in egypt.
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this country's peace treaty with israel has been the rock upon which upon we have built our middle east diplomacy for the last 30 years. transit through egypt is vital to our military and vital to the wars in iraq and afghanistan and egypt has been a critical partner in the war against al qaeda. the president has to try to thread a very small needle here. he wants to tell mubarak and he wants to encourage the egyptian military to recognize that history is moving along. that egyptian politics are going to be different than they've ever been before. but at the same time he doesn't want to throw our friend under the bus and he doesn't want to send a signal to our other friends in the region like king abdullah of saudi arabia, like king abdullah of jordan. that we are an unfaithful person. that delicate balance is something which no american president has ever quite gotten righting in the islamic world before. jimmy carter didn't get it right
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in iran in 1979, george bush didn't get it right in pakistan in 2007 and 2008. sure footedness is very critical here and not trying to force the egyptian system to move faster than the egyptian system is willing to move. >> rose: it is amazing to me when i think about how this dilemma of friend who acts in our own sort of national security interest but at the same time at their core have real problems with people in their own country. how do we find a way to either change their behavior or change their reality? and we've never been able to do that and it exists today with karzai in afghanistan. and it was true with the that and has been true so many times. with the shah. why is it that we can't solve that dilemma, bruce? >> well, every time we've tried to choose a leader for a foreign
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country-- whether it was vietnam or the shah or hamid karzai-- we've ended up with buyers' remorse. so point number one, memo to self, let's not try to pick egypt's next leader. let egyptians do that. second point i would make is this: it's very hard to move autocrats with dictatorial powers in a certain direction. but i think what's happened in the arab world this january, the jasmine revolution in tunisia and egypt suggests that we're moving towards a springtime of arab democracy. that's what the president has said we want to see happen. democracy by definition is going to be a lot more complicated to work with than autocrats. we're going to have to listen to voices in egypt in the future if there's a more representative government than we've listened to in the past. for the last 30 years, all we had to do was convince hosni mubarak and we got what we wanted. if egypt is moving towards a
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more open society, a more responsive society to the egyptian people, then other voices are going to enter into the picture and we're going to have to listen to them and build a more convincing case that goes beyond one dictator. >> also it's true that whenever we had serious discussions with mubarak, our first priority as the united states was always to ask ask him about foreign policy issues. and not put first what he needed to do in order to open up his society. it's not that we didn't mention opening up his society but what we put our emphasis on was what he needed to do in order to facilitate fundamental policies of the united states in the region. that goes back to the time that mubarak decided to make the important decision of giving a speech to the arab summit after saddam hussein invaded kuwait. and he said that this was
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against all arab principles. and by doing that mubarak opened up the possibility of the big international coalition that eventually pushed iraq out of kuwait. and that has been the key. we had a lot to discuss with mubarak all along but our own strategic interests have come first and not the issue of a change is necessary in egypt. >> rose: not much talk about governance. >> we might talk with them about it, but we don't put the real screws on that issue. >> rose: israel. how are the israelis reacting at the highest level of the government? >> the israelis are very nervous about this. >> rose: because? >> they wanted mubarak to stay as president until he was 120.
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because for them there is little confidence that the successor to mubarak will keep the basic agreement between israel and egypt. i think they're wrong about that but they have not much confidence in what they have wrought with egypt. since the very early days of sadat's visit to jerusalem, the israelis believed that the decision was so unique to the leader and that the people were not with them, the israelis did not believe how much people in egypt wanted sadat to do what he did. when he said "no more war" israelis thought that was a communication to them. but the main thing was he was communicating to his own people who did not want any more wars
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against israel. the egyptian middle-class did not want to... would not accept any more that its sons would spend all of their young years learning how to cross the canal. they didn't want that. and sadat had to respond to that. so the israelis have not come to think of the domestic process which produced sadat's decision. they've always thought of it as a unique breaking away from everything that was a tradition in the arab world. >> rose: bruce, tell me what the best scenario is and what the worst scenario is. >> i think the best scenario is for there to be a relatively peaceful transition nnd n which mubarak leaves egypt, omar suleiman is vice president for a finite period of time and new elections are held.
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i don't think they'll wait two years, i think they'll have to come sooner than that and that's unfortunate because new elections sooner rather than later are probably going to be dominated by the muslim brotherhood. that's probably the best outcome. the worst outcome is if mubarak and suleiman decide they're going to play it out indefinitely and we have a prolonged stalemate, standoff, in the streets of cairo and alexandria or worse. they try to use force and see if they can't intimidate the people back into accepting the future is mubarak. that i think could be disaster for everybody. >> rose: does the united states have any leverage as to which way it goes? >> the united states has a lot of leverage here. we have been providing the egyptian military with training, with equipment for the last 30 years. these tanks you see on t.v., the
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f-16s you see flying overhead, that tear gas you saw fired last weekend, those are all made in america. it's leverage but it's blunt leverage and it's hard to use and we're better off if we can use persuasion than telling the egyptians if you do don't it our way we're going to cult off all of your assistance. we need now to be talking to all players in egypt. both mubarak, the suleiman, the army and i would say the opposition as well in trying to see if we can't facilitate a process that leads to a peaceful outcome. >> rose: suppose the pot caughting you tonight and says "bruce, you know the region well take know the leaders of the protest in the street." could you do that? with all the sources you have? >> i don't think that the people in the street know who the leader of their revolution is. >> rose: (laughs) yes, exactly. >> i don't think there is a leader. i think there are multiple leaders. >> rose: how do you negotiate? >> i think first of all you have to listen to their principle
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demand and their principle demand is that hosni mubarak say 30 years is enough and it's time for me to retire. i think that's an essential pre-condition for moving on. then we have to have an election process. egypt supposed to have elections this fall. we may be able to postpone those a few months one way or another but that electoral process needs to move forward. could it in some way end up as a positive thing for the united states and what it hopes for the region? is that scenario there? >> i think this is an important points this a very dramatic moment but it's what we've always been asking for. we said change had to come to egypt. we've said the arab world cannot be run by dictators forever. well, be careful what you ask for. the egyptian people seem to have listened to us and now they're demanding that change. >> rose: so that may very well be in the interest of the united states. you can see that as well.
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>> i do. but i am concerned about again our putting the definition of democracy as being... having an election very soon. we did that once with the palestinians and we still are caught up with the results of that election in which hamas was elected. we must have a structure which will allow an election in which there are forces other than the fundamentalists who are organized enough to run a decent campaign. and we have to have a process which allows some serious candidates to emerge, to run for president. if we don't that, we are really taking a huge wrist and i think that we have seen that that huge risk is often going to fail.
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so i would say... i would like us to remember that we did have a lot of our military leadership in contact with many of the people who are at this point the leaders of the military in egypt i am hoping that during the time they communicated with the egyptian leadership some of our people told them about what we consider the value of democracy and why that makes for a strong country. because it is is going to be very hard to get them to believe that when they are approached about it now in this crisis moment when they have so much control. if they had already been introduced to the idea that our people are people from the national security council, our people from the military told them something about the values we have about what it means to
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have an open society the value of the freedom of speech, what it does in creating the possibility that egypt wuf big jump in its national economy if its people were better educated, able to speak, able to think new thoughts without being afraid. >> rose: stephen cohen, thank you very much. his book in paper back is called "beyond america's grasp, a century of failed diplomacy in the middle east." stephen p. cohen. bruce ridel, thank you so much again. "deadly embrace, pakistan, america, and the future of the global jihad," a new book, is out tomorrow. captioning sponsored by rose communications captioned by media access group at wgbh access.wgbh.org
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